Julia Speaks – A Letter from Julia Eggleston Stevens to her sister Cordelia Eggleston Pond

It has been a great pleasure to connect with the Major, a descendant of Jedediah Stevens, who has been sharing various never-before-published letters from his family collection. The following letter brings to life the voice of Julia Eggleston Stevens, Jedediah’s wife, whose story is told in my earlier posts about the Stevens women. She wrote the following undated letter to her sister Cordelia from Wabasha’s Prairie where Jedediah was working as a government farmer for Chief Wabasha’s band. Cordelia was living at Fort Snelling on “March 6” which is the only date the letter includes. It was sent to Cordelia care of a “Mrs. Kittering.” Cordelia and Samuel were living at Benjamin Baker’s boarding house at the fort in 1840-1841 and Jedidiah and Julia Stevens had left Wabasha Prairie and moved to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, by December 1841, so it is assumed that the lettter is most likely written on March 6, 1841.

“My Dear Sister Cordelia,

“Since I sealed Nealy’s letter the mail man has concluded to stop for the night, and just handed me a letter from you informing me of the fate of my last to you.[1] In that I wrote that I had received Nealy’s long and very acceptable letter but being pinched for time I would not undertake to answer so long a letter so I answered the one you last sent by Mr. Steel [sic] before this.[2] I finally filled my sheet full. Many things which I wrote in that I shall not recollect now probably, but a part I will write over.

“I said in my last that I hoped you did not think I wished Mother to come here to think of spending her days here among these Indians, but wished her to come and see us and stay as long as she would like to with you and also me, and my husband has promised me the pleasure of returning with her. But I will say no more for it is so very doubtful whether she will ever come. I also said that could you now be with me probably we would never enjoy each other’s society so much as now. I can hardly reconcile myself to the fact that I cannot see you this winter. Do you not intend to visit me in the spring, I shall hope to see you on the first boat. I wrote in my last letter that we were all well Jane and all.[3]

“Tell Mrs. Sibley I cannot tell her how much I was disappointed I could not repress my tears when I saw them pass. I heard the evening before that they had camped 6 miles below us, and I rose 2 hours before day to have all in readiness for them. I was the more disappointed because I knew they would soon see you and Nealy. And I cannot quite get over it yet. Although I am not ‘mad’ for anger does not rest in my bosom.[4]

“I feel extremely anxious for dear Cornelia since I read your letter. O that I could see her. Do not fail to tell me all the particulars in your next about her, and I hope I shall hear she is better the next mail.

“I told you in the last letter that our Indians had been counseling and had determined to go out after the Chip[pewa] and have been as you learn from Nealy’s letter. They have just returned fire up their guns near our house and have rushed in, have one skelp [sic] of an old woman. They fired on three women.  2 young women ran into a Frenchman’s house and the Frenchman begged and cryed [sic] very hard. And they did not kill them. The 2nd Chief killed the old woman (Wakanindiota). They act like hungry wolves. And must I feed the bloody men. They have eat nothing for 3 days, but I have not a spark of pity in my heart. They never looked so hateful so dreadful to me before. Must I feed them and let them lodge in my house. The traders house is more than full.

“I told you, I had ____ _______ and he ________ it like anything but patience. The little fellow thought his trouble too deep to be trifled with. Do not tell Nealy for she did not wish to hear any more of sissy’s or hub’s trouble. And it is this greatest calamity that ______ _______ this little fellow. (This paragraph has several illegible words…)

“The children all join me in love to Aunt Cordelia, Cousin and Uncle Samuel and “uncle Gavin”. How is sister Sarah. I fear she is consumptive. Love to her and brother Gideon.[5]

“Ev[arts] wishes me to say “he is always sorry he did not kiss Aunt Cordelia good by.” He often speaks of it.

“I also told you I had got a nice jam of candied honey to send you and Nealy the first opportunity. A bee tree was found in our door yard full of beautiful honey. Our neighbors are very kind indeed send me something almost every day. O that they were Christians. But if I mention the subject of religion all are silent and a blush covers every face. The subject changed as soon as possible.

“I have no one with whom I can unite in prayer or converse upon that which I love most. But my dear Sis it is impossible for me to write with all the distractions I have around me so I will close. Your affectionate Sister

Julia E. Stevens”

The Major also provided me with several specific dates and corrections to the Stevens’ stories which I have incorporated into earlier posts. Again, it is always so beneficial to find a living descendant who has private archival material that helps researchers like me tell our stories with greater accuracy than the public record provides. I present Julia’s letter with my thanks for this assistance.

[1] Nealy is most likely a nickname for Lucy Cornelia Stevens Gavin, Jedediah Steven’s niece who had worked at the Lake Harriet mission before marrying Daniel Gavin. They had been living with Cordelia and Samuel Pond at the Baker House at Fort Snelling until the spring of 1841 when they returned to their mission work at Red Wing’s village on the shores of Lake Pepin.

[2] Mr. Steel is perhaps a reference to Franklin Steele, who may have carried mail from the Fort to Wabasha’s village as part of his normal travel throughout the region.

[3] Jane is Jane DeBow Gibbs whose story is also told in an earlier post.

[4] It is tempting to believe that the Mrs. Sibley referred to in Julia’s letter was the wife of the well-known fur trader Henry Hastings Sibley but Henry Sibley didn’t marry his wife Sarah until 1843, long after Julia Stevens had left Wabasha Prairie. Historian Stephen Osman suggests that the Mrs. Sibley referred to might be the wife of Caleb Chase Sibley (1806-1875) who was married to Nancy Davenport (died 1871). This Sibley was a captain in the 5th Infantry during this time period and they may have been stationed on the Upper Mississippi at this time. It would not have been unusual for Julia Stevens to have befriended this Nancy Davenport Sibley at the fort and now regretted that they had not connected during the Sibley’s journey near Wabasha.

[5] Gideon is Gideon Pond and Sarah is his wife, Sarah Poage Pond.

This entry was posted in Cordelia Eggleston Pond, Jane DeBow Gibbs, Julia Eggleston Stevens, Lucy Cornelia Stevens Gavin, Sarah Poage Pond, Women in Minnesota. Bookmark the permalink.

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